My Boundaries Still a Work in Progress

Yesterday I met up with a friend from group. I hadn’t seen her since our last session in December last year. I wasn’t planning on seeing her again. She invited me for brunch, and I felt obligated to go after having turned down a couple of invitations from her earlier this year, so accepted. That was my first mistake.

It was the longest and most exhausting 4 hours. As soon as she started talking, I realized that I really didn’t want to be there with her. She didn’t have one nice thing to say about anyone, complained about everything and everyone in her life, and didn’t give me a chance to speak. I should have left sooner, but I didn’t feel like I could. I was scared of upsetting her. I didn’t listen to or respect my own boundaries. And I allowed her to cross them too.

I left feeling drained, irritated, and barely able to form a coherent sentence when my dad asked me a question when I got back to the house. I desperately needed a nap, and proceeded to sleep for 3 hours straight! It was dark when I woke up, which made me even more frustrated with myself. But I’d had enough negativity for the day, and decided to watch some Frasier. I needed some good “feels”.

Another reason I had felt obligated to meet up with her is because she’s often told me that she doesn’t have friends. She said it again during brunch, complaining about a new friend she had made who she quickly unfriended due to what seemed to me a silly reason to end a friendship, but to each their own I guess.

I was thinking though that I’m not responsible for her not having friends. It makes me sad to think that she doesn’t, but it’s not something I have to, or can, fix for her. And it also doesn’t mean that I have to be her friend just because she doesn’t have any others. That’s not a true friendship. That’s a sympathy friendship. So I’ve decided that I’m not going to meet up with her again. I just can’t do it. I won’t.

I need to take care of myself first.

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It Didn’t Work: Attachment Styles

Over the past couple of years of learning about boundaries, I’ve learned that I can choose who and what I allow in my life. It’s been a liberating lesson, but also a difficult and sometimes heartbreaking one.

Since Elizabeth and I broke up a few months ago, I’ve often wondered whether a friendship would work between us. I tried to make it work. But two weeks ago, I realized that I just didn’t want to try anymore. It wasn’t working for me, and was only causing me frustration, anger, and pain. It’s been a learning curve, but I now know better what I just won’t stand for in any type of relationship anymore. I’m done letting people walk all over me, treat me like trash and a problem, and not respecting my boundaries. I unfortunately still have to put up with it in my home life until I can move out, but outside that environment I have more control.

I started reading a book a while ago “Attached: The Science of Adult Attachment“. I have an anxious attachment style (anxious/ambivalent more specifically), and almost instantly recognized Elizabeth in the Avoidant attachment style. Looking back, and armed with this new information, the signs had been there from the beginning, but they became far more obvious as our relationship progressed. When I realized all this, I felt a sense of relief. I’d been believing that the relationship not working out was almost entirely my fault, and due to my own issues. And Elizabeth seemed convinced that was the case as well. Being made out to be the “guilty” one was one of the reasons I decided I just can’t have her in my life anymore. I take responsibility for my part in the relationship not working, and I refuse to put up with someone unable to see her own faults and constantly pointing fingers at others. The point is, our attachment styles aren’t compatible. It just doesn’t work out well. I’ve now let go of all the guilt and self-criticism regarding the relationship. It doesn’t serve me and just keeps me stuck in a negative loop.

I learned a lot from this relationship, and now it’s time to let it go. To let her go. I have to do what’s best for me. Even if it hurts initially. And it hurts.

 

Contemplating Achievement

It’s time for a more positive post, because it’s not always just bad.

About a month ago I told my mom that I feel like I haven’t achieved anything in my life. That I’ve just wasted my life, and have nothing to show for myself. I was feeling a little despondent about my web and graphic design business. She told me that the fact that I continue to come up with ideas and work hard, despite the obstacles, she sees that as a great achievement. She said that she would have given up trying long ago, but I didn’t. And at some point, all that hard work just has to pay off.

My design business is about 6 months old, and I think I’ve done pretty well so far. Even though the business isn’t where I’d like it to be, I realize that it will take time. I haven’t had many clients, but at least I’ve gotten some. It’s much more successful than my photography business ever was, and is. And for that, I’m grateful.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been wanting to redesign the website of one of the restaurants my friend (previous wedding business partner) and I often meet at. Their website was ancient, had security issues, and didn’t work correctly. I spoke to one of the managers, gave her my business card, and asked her to please give it to the owner. And then I waited.

About 2 weeks ago I decided I was sick of waiting. So I found out the name of the owner of the restaurant and sent him an email. It took me an hour to write! Not because it was a long email (it wasn’t, it was short and to the point), but because I kept rewriting it in an attempt to get it just right. Damn perfectionist tendencies. It took me another 10 minutes to get the courage to hit “send”. But I did. And I was rewarded two days later with a phone call from the owner, telling me he’d been wanting to change his website for 3 years, but hadn’t gotten around to it! He wanted to meet. The last meeting we had, on Monday, I had shown him what I’ve done so far, and he was super happy with it. That was such a relief. I had been so nervous that he wouldn’t like the design and layout, and I’d have to start over. I find that I get very attached to my design work, and really want the client to like it too. I’m almost done with the website now, and should have it up on Monday. It would have been ready earlier, but of course, I still have my half-day job. I’m glad I’ve got that job though. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

I went into panic mode just before starting this project because I would have to do something completely different to how I would usually do it. I thought I couldn’t, and I’d have to tell my client that I couldn’t help him. But I did the work to figure out just how to do things this way. It set me back two days, but I learned, and with it came a boost of confidence. Adaptability in business is crucial. I learned this from an online sales and entrepreneurship course I’m taking at the moment.

One thing I’ve learned through this experience with the restaurant is that it’s not enough to just hand out business cards and hope for the best. I’m going to have to follow-up, and reach out to the correct person. And my meetings with my friend in business really motivate and inspire me. We motivate and inspire one another, and even though it’s draining spending too much time with her, I always get something out of it. I’ve learned to tell her when she’s overwhelming me, and ask her to talk softer and slow down, or give me 5 minutes to just ground myself. She respects my boundaries, so our meetings have become so much more pleasant, and I leave feeling good (most of the time anyway).

Achievement isn’t limited to career or studies. The other day Jasmine told me that I’m becoming really good with boundaries. That was nice to hear. To me, that’s an achievement. So when I think I haven’t achieved anything in life, I can recognize that thought for the lie it is. Maybe I can refer back to this post during those moments of self-doubt.

Unfortunately the depression and desire to just give up on life hasn’t left. It’s there when I wake up in the morning. It’s there every time I take a break from work. Heck, even while I’m working, but at least once I get into a flow state, I get a break from those feelings and thoughts.

Boundaries

About a week or so ago, I came across a video on Facebook from an interview with Brené Brown. As usual, I was captivated by what she had to say.

In this interview she talks about the importance of boundaries, and how empathy and compassion go hand in hand with having good boundaries, which is something I haven’t realized until now.

Then, a couple of days ago, I also came across an article on the topic of boundaries. It felt like the universe giving me a sign. So since then, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

I’m sensitive to other people’s energies, and tend to take their feelings on as my own. If someone is stressed and overwhelmed, even if I was in a peaceful mood, I suddenly become just as agitated as they are.

This leads to me feeling as though I need to “fix” them. That it’s my responsibility to make them feel better. Could this perhaps be a selfish thing? By making them feel better, or doing things that I think would make them feel better in such a situation, isn’t that just an attempt at making myself feel better? Almost like saying “I don’t like that you’re feeling this way, it’s making me uncomfortable because what you’re feeling, I’m also experiencing.”

When I look at it this way, then in this interview, when Brené says that some of the most compassionate people she knows are also some of the most boundaried, then her words make sense. If I have good boundaries, I won’t be taking on the other person’s emotions, but will rather be able to keep a healthy distance. And that will help me better support that person. Does this make sense?

I’ve realized that because I don’t have firm boundaries when it comes to what I let in, I’m almost constantly emotionally exhausted. I can’t, and don’t want to, do this anymore. It’s not healthy.

I got to practice this just yesterday. Elizabeth was upset with someone who had crossed one of her boundaries and was being rude and disrespectful. She had walked away from this person in order to get some distance, because she was feeling overwhelmed and didn’t want to say something she might regret. I listened to her, and really focused on what she was saying and the feelings she was expressing.

Just being present with her there in that moment, but mentally picturing a bubble around each of us, helped me gain that necessary distance between her emotions and mine. I could still empathize with her, and offer compassion, but her emotions didn’t affect me negatively. I wasn’t able to keep it up for very long though, but I think this is one of those things that we become better at with continued practice. The little bit I managed to do already helped quite a lot.

When she was feeling calmer, I told her I’m going to go do my own thing for a while, while she speaks to the person who had upset her. I went to the room, put on some music, and worked on some photo’s. I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed, like I would have and managed to let go of the little bits of negative emotions that she had expressed. Knowing that those emotions weren’t mine, I was able to more easily return to my own equilibrium.

Boundaries are so important. And they aren’t selfish. After all, you can’t be there for someone if you’re so overwhelmed yourself due to having weak boundaries. In 2018 I’m going to focus on strengthening my own, and implementing them more effectively. I only realized, after watching the video, and reading the article, just how much I’ve been negatively affected by other people and situations. Unnecessarily so, because I haven’t had proper boundaries established. It’s my responsibility to look after my mental and physical well-being. Not having the right boundaries in place, has made me give my power over to situations and other people. My goal is to work on that. I’ve already started, and I know I can do this.

Here’s the video for anyone who’s interested:

You can find the article here:

10 Great Things That Happen When You Set Boundaries

Wishing you all a wonderful 2018. Thanks for all your support this year.

Excitement, And The Power Of A Hug

I was just going to write about something really great that happened on Monday, but there’s something else that happened last night that I want to share as well. So this post might also be a long one.

After a year and four months, it’s finally happening. I’m going to see my mom and little sisters again!

My mom sent me a text on Monday morning, saying “I wonder when I’m going to see Rayne again”, with a GIF of a monkey scratching his head. That was really cute and funny. I showed it to my step-mom as well. I often share these kinds of things with them and vice versa. I sent that same GIF back to her saying “I’m wondering the same thing.” A few hours later I was surprised with a flight ticket and rental car! My dad, with nudging from my step-mom (whose idea it was- bless her heart), decided to use their reward points to get me that ticket. They had so many points that they didn’t have a pay a cent for it. That’s pretty cool. I was so happy, and the gratitude I felt, almost made me burst into tears. I also felt this great sense of relief. I’m just not sure what the relief is about.

It’s my mom’s birthday today, and she hates her birthday. My flight is for next week Wednesday. I wanted to tell her on Monday already, but thought today would be a better time to do it. So I video called her this morning, and told her that I have a special gift for her this year. My youngest little sister was with my mom at the time, so she was also in on the call. When I told them that I’m coming next week, they both started screaming. Seeing their faces, oh my heart. I’ll never forget that moment.

And guess what? I’m also going to see my therapist in person again! I can’t wait! Although I’m also a little nervous for some reason.

I went to group last night, and really enjoyed it. D was leading it. Before group, while we were in the coffee shop, one of the guys came around to the table I was sitting at with some of the girls. He kissed one of them on the cheek, and attempted to do the same with me. I told him “no” and pulled my face away. He laughed and tried again, but not coming too close this time. Like in a playful manner. But I stuck to my boundaries and didn’t give in, like I would have in the past. Too afraid of offending the person. One of the girls told him that I don’t like it when guys touch me. I was surprised when she said that, because I didn’t know that she “got it”. I told him I’d give him a hug instead. Afterward he said “but you touched me” and I told him that it’s because I initiated it, and therefore I was more comfortable with it.

I’m becoming more comfortable with talking and sharing during the group. That’s progress. This group is so good and valuable for me. After I was done talking and sharing last night, my inner critic showed up. I didn’t quite articulate myself very well. I stumbled a little over my thoughts and words, but not in a very obvious way. Some things came out in ways that I didn’t intend, and were incomplete. But I told that critic to shut up. The important thing is that I’m trying. This is all new to me, so of course I’m going to struggle a bit at first. It’s like a baby taking her first steps. She’s going to be awkward at first. She’s going to struggle and stumble. But she doesn’t give up, she keeps getting back up and trying again. Eventually she’s walking with ease. I’ll get there too.

We were talking about values yesterday, which is part of Interpersonal Effectiveness in DBT. We did a fun activity. But at some point during that activity I started feeling this depression sink in. When the activity was over and we started going through the skill, I started to feel worse. I still struggle with values. With knowing who I want to be. Who I really am. And the shame that had died down a little since Monday, hit me full force again. Suddenly everyone and everything around me started to feel unreal. And then the suicidal thoughts kicked in. I felt like nothing matters. What’s the point of life? Then the thought (judgement) that “there’s no reason for me to be feeling the way I am right now. Good things are happening. I have things to look forward to. I’m not supposed to be feeling depressed and suicidal. What the hell is wrong with me?” There were a few times that I felt tears well up, but tried to focus on what was going on in the group. There was a point when I couldn’t hold back that much, but I just hid my face and pretended to be looking at the worksheet I had in front of me. I may be more comfortable with talking and sharing, but I’m not at the point yet where I’m comfortable showing my emotions in front of more than one person.

I’m still going to be able to attend group next week, but will miss the next one, which is the last one for two weeks. D didn’t know whether she was going to be doing the group next week, or one of the other OT’s. So after group I asked her whether I could give her a hug in case I don’t see her for the next month or possibly longer. What started as a hug from me to her, a thank you for all she does and for the group last night, turned into her giving me a precious gift. And she doesn’t even know it.

I hugged her, and as I was starting to pull away, she held onto me and hugged me even tighter. I always pull away pretty quickly, and when I let go the other person also does. But she didn’t. And I’m so grateful, because it was what I needed. It felt warm, caring, and comforting. My whole body relaxed, and my mind just went quiet. I felt a deeper level of trust toward her, and sense of safety. It’s the quickest that suicidal and hopeless thoughts went away. It usually lasts at least a few hours, days, and sometimes even weeks. And it’s still gone.

On my way home, I cried all the way. I felt connected to the younger versions of myself. I experienced the pain of not having had the love and comfort I so desperately wanted and needed all those years. At how one deep hug could have such a big effect on me.

I feel like writing her an email and telling her about this, but not sure if I should. What do you guys think?

I wrote this in my personal journal last week, without intending to share it with anyone. But now it just feels right to do it. Strange how things work sometimes.

Letter To No One And Everyone

I need you to dig, to find those parts of me that even I can’t find.
I need you to help me see if there’s treasure hidden somewhere inside me.

Please sit beside me. Not a world away. Distance plays tricks on my mind.
Please see inside me. I can’t see me. But maybe you can.
Please hold my hand. Don’t pull away even when I initially try to.
Please hold me. If I try to pull away, don’t let go. Hold onto me.
Please be gentle with me. I’m tough, but also very fragile.

Can you feel the pain behind these words?
Can you see the tears that are falling as I’m writing this?
Can you hear my silent screams for comfort?

You may touch my heart.
But how can I trust that when I can’t feel the warmth of your touch?

That gentle touch that unlocks the door to my soul.
That healing touch that fills me with the strength I need to fight another day. That touch I ache for.
That can help break the bonds of harm that were created a long time ago.

A touch that heals, not destroys.
A dream… Unrealistic.
A voice deep inside whispers, “you don’t deserve it”.

D made me feel like maybe, just maybe, I do deserve it.

That’s the power of a hug.

Small Steps Towards Healthy Boundaries

Today was a good day. I managed to do a few things that I wanted to, and my mood has been relatively stable. I wasn’t happy, but I also wasn’t depressed or sad. Not empty either. Just normal. I can’t remember ever feeling like this. Perhaps the mood stabilizer is finally working. Whatever it is, after the depression that has been hanging around for the past month or so, this is a welcome relief. And I’m so incredibly grateful for it.

In my New Year post, I mentioned my goals for 2017. And today I’ve been thinking about my goal of setting healthy boundaries.

Boundaries have always been hard for me. I didn’t realize just how much, until I started therapy. At first, the boundaries in the therapeutic relationship made me feel hurt, angry and confused. But through the months, I’ve found that they provide me with a sense of safety and structure. My therapist knows I can cope with my emotions, and that I can deal with things that come up in my life. Hell, I’ve gotten through 32 years without her. Through some of the worst and most traumatic moments of my life, with little or no support. So I don’t need her to constantly be there for me. Besides, If I start to rely on her all the time, I’ll eventually stop putting in the effort of caring for myself. That being said, I still sometimes get annoyed with the boundaries, but those moments are few and far between. So this is an example of me needing to be respectful of other people’s boundaries. Which I’ve become quite good at. It’s not perfect, but still a big improvement.

Then there are my personal boundaries. And this is where I struggle the most. I’ve been trying to become aware of my limits. What makes me feel uncomfortable and unsafe. I’m still in the learning stage. But we have to start somewhere right? I need to start putting myself first more often. One of my current problems is discovering a boundary I need to set, but then being unable to fully implement it. I feel bad and guilty about having that boundary up. If someone pushes a little, I cave. But I can’t expect myself to become perfect at setting and sticking to them overnight. So I’m not going to be too hard on myself.

I came across this inspiring Ted talk today. It was just what I needed to hear.

Already Missing Her

Today I had my last therapy session for 2016.

The next time I’ll be seeing Therapist is on the 10th of January 2017. I know I’ll survive and that life will carry on as usual, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t miss her and think about her every day.

I’ve been having a lot of bad dreams about her going away. About me not being a part of her personal life. But on the other hand, I love this therapeutic relationship. It’s more intimate than any other relationship I’ve ever had, and I know that it wouldn’t be the same if we were friends, or even family. The therapeutic relationship is a very special type of relationship, and I treasure it.

A part of me feels abandoned by her. That she won’t be here for me during December, which is the worst time of the year for me. But that’s Emotion Mind speaking. Rational and Wise Mind knows that this break is important for her. This part is glad that she’s going to have a break and be able to recharge. That she’ll be spending time with those she loves. And that makes me feel happy. It’s just hard to reconcile the two parts at the same time. It’s either-or, depending on which frame of mind I’m in at that moment.

The fear of her not coming back in the new year is there too. The fear that she’ll forget about me. But I trust her more than I did in the beginning few months, thanks to her consistency. So that isn’t my main fear. Especially now that we’ve already set a date and time for our next session. That really helps as well. She also sent me a beautiful recording, which I’ll listen to whenever I feel I’m missing her too much and just want her to come back. I don’t want to forget her.

I think my biggest fear is that I’ll lose that connection I feel with her. What if when she comes back, I don’t feel that connection anymore? I tend to push people away and put a shield around my heart if I don’t see them for a while, or feel I’m going to be rejected. That way I won’t have to feel that intense longing or pain. But I don’t want to do that with her.

I told Therapist about all the plans I have in place for December. Constructive activities that will help me through this difficult time. Such as working on the book I’ve started writing, blogging, studying Psychology through those free online courses (MIT’s Introduction to Psychology, for example) and textbooks, reading through Marsha Linehan’s DBT Skills Training Manual (and practicing those skills). And most importantly, spending time with my girlfriend, who recently told me “I’ll be here. I’m not going anywhere”.

Trying to explain to someone (like my dad and stepmom) who just don’t get it, about how hard this is going to be for me, is like trying to explain physics to a three year old. Yes, I’m attached to my therapist. And maybe that’s not normal or understandable to most people. But it’s real to me. And it makes sense for me.

Going into this session, I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t expect the goodbye would hurt this much. I feel this overwhelming sense of loss, and I don’t know why.

I don’t want to see it as a “goodbye”. Instead, I choose to see it as “see you soon”.